Seaga goes home

Jamaica's fifth prime minister set to receive grand farewell at State funeral service


Sunday, June 23, 2019

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The inevitable tears, laughs, and introspection will dominate today's State funeral for the life of Jamaica's fifth Prime Minister Edward Phillip George Seaga in Kingston.

Seaga, who died on his birthday, May 28, aged 89, in Florida where he had gone to receive treatment for cancer, will have many stories being told of him during the ecumenical service to be held at Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, North Street, in the form of the State funeral — which means that the Jamaica Defence Force will be in charge of the proceedings. It is set to begin at noon.

The service comes after four days of official mourning, from June 19 to 22, for the man who was prime minister of Jamaica from 1980 to 1989. His remains will be interred at the National Heroes' Park, which is, among other things, a reserved burial site for late prime ministers, governors general, and other important national icons. The burial will be marked by a 19-gun salute, with bullets fired at one-minute intervals.

Among those expected to pay tribute are Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, Cabinet ministers, members of academia — which Seaga represented in the latter years of his life — and the sports fraternity. The culture community is also among those expected to put their expressions on record in a service that is slated to last at least three hours.

Leaders and representatives of other countries are expected to attend, although up to late yesterday only prime minister of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell had confirmed that he would be among the thousands of mourners to descend on the historic church and its environs for a grand farewell to a man who was Member of Parliament for Kingston Western for 43 unbroken years — the longest time that a parliamentarian has ever represented his constituents.

Several activities leading up to today's climax dominated the Jamaica scene in recent weeks, among them a 'nine night' celebration in Tivoli Gardens — the heart of Seaga's west Kingston voting strength; a revival table to mark his association with that form of the Jamaican culture; and an often emotionally charged joint sitting of the Houses of Parliament during which glowing tributes were given to the late elder statesman by representatives from both sides of the political divide.

Seaga, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, but came to Jamaica with his mixed race parents at a mere six months old, is highly regarded as among the top three most impactful prime ministers in Jamaica's 56-year history of political independence.

The twice-married father of four's name is associated with many of the institutions which continue to play significant roles in Jamaica's development.

As a sportsman, Seaga played seven sports for his high school, Wolmer's Boys', and five for the University of Harvard, where he studied social science.

A member of the team that crafted Jamaica's Constitution in 1961, a year before the island of now 2.8 million inhabitants — by latest population census — gained Independence from Great Britain, Seaga, after his life in politics in which he also served as minister of development and welfare and minister of finance and planning, was distinguished fellow of the University of the West Indies (Mona Campus) and chancellor of the University of Technology Jamaica.

The funeral's planning committee, led by Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange, has spent countless hours trying to ensure that activities today run seamlessly. The preparations included a dress rehearsal early Friday morning.

Last night a wake or 'set up' was held in Tivoli Gardens — the final such event associated with Seaga's death.

The police has reminded the public that traffic changes will be in effect to accommodate the funeral.

Among the roads to be affected are South Camp Road, East Queen Street, North Street — where the cathedral is situated — East Street, Church Street, Duke Street, Charles Street, south Heroes' Circle, Marescaux Road, and Caledonia Avenue.

According to the police, shuttle buses will be provided at National Heroes' Circle to transport mourners to the church before the start of the service, and back to the parking area at the end of it.

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